Parody aside, queer films seem to be heavy on the tragedy. Where are all the queer rom-coms?
There are a lot of great films out there with queer narratives, and refreshingly, it’s not just obscure indie films offering up stories about LGBTQ characters these days. Mainstream Hollywood is getting in on the action too: Brokeback Mountain, Milk, Monster, A Single Man – all of these films feature queer main characters, and all were at least nominated for major film awards. Great! Celebrating queer narratives! They won a lot!
There’s a lack of happy endings in queer cinema. On one hand this makes sense – a lot of queer narratives are historically tragedies
But there’s something disturbing and problematic about these highly celebrated, mainstream queer movies. It’s heavily implied that Brokeback Mountain’s Jack Twist is murdered in a homophobic attack; Harvey Milk is assassinated; Monster’s Aileen Wuornos is executed; A Single Man starts with the death of one half of a gay couple and ends with the death of the other. A quick glance through Netflix’s Gay & Lesbian section offers a similar range.
You can choose from Bridegroom (“the story of Shane Bitney Crone, who finds himself without marriage’s legal protections when his same-sex partner dies”), Mysterious Skin (about “a young male prostitute and another young man who’s convinced he was abducted by aliens”) and Trash (featuring “two junkies living in New York’s Lower East Side [who] spend their days picking through trash and desperately looking for their next fix”). Not the most uplifting selection. (Though Another Gay Movie, about “four gay high schoolers [who] all want to lose their virginity – and they’ll paint the town lavender to do so in this gay parody of the teen comedy genre”, sounds a delight, if not necessarily Academy Award-winning material.)
Parody aside, queer films seem to be heavy on the tragedy. There’s a distinct lack of happy endings. And on one hand this makes sense – it would be tactless and insensitive to ignore the long, often violent and tragic battle the gay community has faced in its fight for rights and recognition. A lot of queer narratives are historically tragedies. Milk and Monster are both based on real people. The figures say everything: today, hate crimes against LGBTQ people are at their highest in 14 years. It would be irresponsible not to acknowledge this. It’s a history that should never be forgotten.
But these aren’t the only stories out there, and it’s tiring to only see victims or, occasionally, the sassy stereotypical sidekick. This isn’t the be-all end-all. Representation should embrace the present as well as the past. There are countless LGBTQ people out there living happy lives, facing the same awkward, embarrassing moments, the same relationship highs and lows, the same hilariously poor choices as anyone else. The same life stresses, job stresses, and now marriage stresses.
Representation should embrace the present as well as the past. There are countless LGBTQ people out there living happy lives
There are plenty of rom-coms and buddy comedies about these shenanigans that are great movie successes when they feature straight characters. But why are they always straight characters? (While we’re at it, in the rare moments these do feature LGBTQ characters, why are they so often just homosexual white men? Comedy and romance is for everyone.)
Actually, let’s go past queer rom-coms. Where’s my action movie with a big macho hero storming his way through the world to rescue his boyfriend? My espionage thriller where the spy wants to get home to her wife? Where is my fairytale knight rescuing his prince? Bisexual superheroes? Queer career bitches? Trans party students? Hell, I’d even have watched and loved Twilight if it was a supernatural vampire-werewolf-lesbian love triangle. So come on, mainstream cinema. Let’s start catching up with the times.
All images: Focus Features